July 19, 2001
ATV Offroad - Review
When you look at the list of Playstation 2 games after only 8 months of release, there is one thing that sticks out. The number of top quality racing games. From the awesome realisc simulations such as Formula One 2001 and Le Mans 24 Hours, to the arcade port of MotoGP and king of them all Gran Turismo 3 (due out on August 10) the system has plenty of top quality titles. It's probably because of this number of racing games that ATV Offroad seems to have been overlooked by so many. Is it a bad game, or has it just got lost among the numerous other racing games?
|No in-game screens, but this is close.|
ATV Offroad is an All-Terrain Vehicle based racing game. Commonly known as "Quads", these four-wheel off-road vehicles are raced professionally and ridden recreationally around the world. They come in varying engine sizes and design styles that reflect the vehicle's intended use. The games features are impressive and cover all aspects of the sport. Each ATV has different ratings for traction, acceleration, stability and top speed. By entering the garage you can tweak the settings for your vehicle such as tyre friction, braking strength, shock reaction and steering sensitivity. The game includes more then 20 different tracks to race on in 6 different game modes, with the Pro Career mode being the one of choice for the games longevity. The 4-player mode however, is also a lot of fun and is destined to grab your attention for some time.
|The game lets you get serious air.|
Strangely ATV Offroad can't easily be put into a definite racing category. On the one hand it's a great simulation of the sport with a very impressive physics model while it also has some great arcade styled touches. The great thing about ATV Offroad is that it isn't just flat out acceleration the game requires some consideration about the racing line which you take as well as the speed which you approach the jumps. Too fast and you may go sailing straight over the next corner and into the trees, or worse still land head first into the incline of the next jump, resulting in a massive collision.
There are several nice things about this game in general. The first is the track design. The tracks range from the very easy, almost flat with few bends to extremely hard which are very hilly, require precision timing with landings and are littered with twists and turns looking to have you sliding off the track. The tracks are also wide enough to have 3 or 4 vehicles racing side by side, which can be exhilarating in the closing stages of a race. Perhaps the most impressive part of this game however is the physics engine, which has been developed just for this game. Each wheel interacts independantly with the environment and can be crucial if you land on one wheel. Land the vehicle nose first into the ground and it will likely flip over a few times throwing you in the air in the process. Likewise, if you land the vehicle perfectly on the ground you will stop any rebounds and get excellent traction and acceleration.
Rainbow Studios are probably best know for their Motocross Madness games on the PC but are also developing several other Playstation 2 games including the excellent looking Star Wars: Racers Revenge which should be out late this year and Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX 2.
While ATV Offroad is a lot of fun there is one annoying feature that pretty much ruined the game for me. The game includes a horrific catch-up feature which wouldn't be too bad if only one other vehicle catches up to you but if you hit the lead you can almost guarantee that everyone else will be right on your tail to overtake you on the last corner. In almost every race, which generally last up to 7-8 minutes there was little over a second the difference between all five vehicles. It keeps the races close but it's frustrating to catch up 10 seconds in 2 laps to not take the lead by more then another second over the final 3 laps. Another small annoyance with the game is the load times between levels, often over 20 seconds and a little too long for my liking.
|Trackside detail is quite varied.|
When I first fired up ATV Offroad I was impressed with the graphics. The frame rate is fairly solid, although the game can struggle when doing sharp turns, and the trackside detail is crisp if not overly impressive. The texturing on the tracks also manages to impress and the subtle effects such as dust kicked up behind the vehicles blends in well to give the game a realistic look. The ATV's are superbly modelled with fine detail with even the suspension springs etc being visible during racing.
When it comes to sound ATV Offroad is no slouch either. The music selection is upbeat with tracks from bands such as Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and more. The sound effects are probably as accurate as you can expect from such a sport.
|Racing in the desert, very sandy.|
ATV Offroad is an admirable attempt at recreating the adrenaline rush of racing the vehicles but is sadly let down by some abysmally unfair catch-up features. Who wants to play a game where you can be so far behind, catch up and then never be able to pull away? It takes away so much of the enjoyment and adds in so much frustration when you begin to lose races because of it. Still this is technically a great title and should keep racing fans happy for quite a while. One thing is certain, Rainbow Studios' upcoming Star Wars: Racers Revenge should benefit from this strong lead-up title.
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